WhatsApp for UPI features at public launch: NPCI

With all the arguments with regard to preferential treatment handed out to WhatsApp for UPI payments, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the body that manages the UPI railroads, clarified that once the app goes live, it will have to bring in all the features of UPI as stated in the guidelines.

In a statement issued to the media, the payments body said: “Currently, NPCI has given its consent to roll out WhatsApp BHIM UPI beta launch with a limited user base of 1 million and low per transaction limit.”

Further, the statement said that the aspects of interoperability, like the ability to send money across any UPI ID, allowing collect requests for customers and generation of BharatQR codes, are required for going live in the final stage.

“Only BHIM UPI-enabled apps, which fulfill such principles, will be permissible for a full-scale public launch,” read the statement.

Responding to the comment from NPCI, Paytm, the largest payments platform in India, said that the statement is silent on the critical issue of safety and security of UPI transactions. Paytm, which has been most vocal about WhatsApp getting leeway in designing the user interface, said that the statement addresses concerns of interoperability raised by its founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma in various fora.

“WhatsApp must implement login and password like all other BHIM UPI apps. This statement is also silent on other issues such as the requirement to send SMS notifications for every UPI transaction. We hope that future rollout will be fully compliant with all the guidelines. We wait to hear NPCI views on some of these missing aspects,” said a Paytm spokesperson.

We independently cross-checked the UPI procedural guidelines as laid out by the NPCI, and found out that the app passcode, which is not present in WhatsApp unlike other payment applications, is an optional feature.

Sources in NPCI said that since WhatsApp is primarily a messenger application, they preferred to keep the application open, only requiring the mobile PIN for the transaction.

Besides the security concern, players from multiple quarters have also raised issues around the fact that WhatsApp was given some form of leeway on the user experience for payments because of the sheer size of the platform and its captive user base.

Sharma, one of the most vocal critics of the entire issue around WhatsApp, had even told ET that Facebook was openly colonising the Indian payment system and was customising UPI to their benefit.

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